Birthed in a Doral warehouse, Miami Music Project has spent the last five years teaching kids who might not otherwise have the chance how to sing and play musical instruments, from the violin to the tuba. "Our goal is to transform communities using music as a vehicle," explains Steven Liu, the director of educational programming at Miami Music Project. "We have four different sites — one in Liberty City, Little Haiti, Little Havana, and Doral, where we engage 500 children in intensive music programming at free or reduced prices."
"We have one student whose family is living in a homeless shelter. We were able to still get her transportation to and from the teaching site so she could continue playing."
Miami Music Project's teaching method is based on a Venezuelan model known as El Sistema, which has produced musical prodigies at a surprising rate. "It teaches how to be in harmony with each other. Mother Teresa said the most horrific thing about poverty isn't the lack of food or shelter, it's the lack of identity. Being a part of an orchestra or choir gives children a sense of community."
Musical training is obviously expensive, and the necessary books and instruments required don't come cheap. That's why Give Miami Day is so important to Miami Music Project. Taking place this Thursday, November 19, the city-wide, 24-hour fundraising blitz — which hopes to raise money for over 600 worthy charities — will make a big push for donations.
Miami Music Project hopes to raise over $50,000 in the 24 hours it will be accepting donations. The Miami Foundation and Knight Foundation will donate a bonus gift to the project for every donation between $25 and $10,000 received on November 19. You can donate by finding Miami Music Project on givemiamiday.org.
"We're interested in sustaining this program until all the kids are adults," Liu says. "With arts programs being cut in schools, this is the only opportunity many of our students have to learn an instrument."
Liu said their funding is required for less obvious expenses as well. "We have one student whose family is living in a homeless shelter. We were able to still get her transportation to and from the teaching site so she could continue playing."
Liu himself can personally relate to how a community's generosity can help a child's dream come true. As a teenager he was prepared to enlist in the Marines when, at the last minute, he won a musical scholarship at UC Irvine. His journey seemed to come full circle recently when, while teaching a cello lesson at Miami Music Project, a seven-year-old boy asked him, "If I get really good at this, can I come back here and teach kids like me to play one day?"
"That blew my mind," Liu says, "the idea that actually could happen. In the five years since we've existed we've already had students in the program graduate from high school and come back and teach here."